By Dr. Mladen Ivanic
Bad guys: No matter how much it seems that the situation around Brcko is calm, I think that the decision regarding this city has left us with many unresolved problems. In RS the bitter taste remains that even what the new leadership of RS did was not enough to leave Brcko within the structure of RS. It is as if a significant part of the international community is still under the influence of the image of the "warring Serbs" who are the bad guys, and consequently even the new Serbs are not accepted as true agents of change. Because of this the decision regarding Brcko was far more in favor of the "warriors from Sarajevo", while weakening the position of the "moderate Serbs" gathered around Unity. My conviction was and remains that the best solution for Brcko was temporary international administration for Brcko that could have lasted ten or more years; after this Brcko would join RS. I believed that this would give enough time to international institutions to realize some key principles, whereas RS would retain some semblance of trust in impartiality of international institutions. Unfortunately, this was not the case, and the prevailing impression in RS is that the international community continues to treat the Serb people poorly to gradually weaken RS as an entity, leading in the end to the disappearance of RS as an entity.
On the other hand, a part of the Federation and the international public continues to view the Dayton Agreement only as a temporary solution to the problem of Bosnia-Hercegovina. This view is based on the implicit supposition that The Dayton Agreement was only the first step toward some sort of an "ideal solution" that would include a far greater degree of unitarization of Bosnia-Hercegovina than is considered normal today. My belief is that this tendency continues to be present to this day and that it is mistaken. This is supported by the attempts to further strengthen Bosnia-Hercegovina through documents introduced by the international community such as the New York Declaration and others. A change of the Dayton Agreement presupposes the acquiescence of representatives of all three constituent nations [Serbs, Croats and Muslim-Bosniaks] and both entities. If this key principle is not honored, I am convinced that this will lead to the loss of authority of international institutions, scrapping of the principle of inviolability of international agreements and everything will return to the prewar state, with all the negative implications. There is absolutely no excuse (simplification of the structure of Bosnian institutions, application of the principles of civil society, etc.) that could be considered powerful enough to endanger the degree of reconciliation in Bosnia-Hercegovina achieved to date.
Avoidance of responsibility: The year which is coming to a close was an especially difficult one for RS. After 1998, when a great deal of enthusiasm was noted in RS, more than significant results in the domain of economics, the emergence of RS on the international scene and so on, during this year all that came to a standstill. The deep political divisions between Unity, on the one hand, and the so-called "patriotic bloc" on the other, have remained and became even deeper than before. At the same time, there was no sufficient political strength to accept the Bosniak-Croat bloc in RS as complete equals. This entailed that RS today does not have a president, the government was not elected, no one is interested in election results, the National Parliament of the Republic of Srpska is ineffective in its work. Objectively, the authority of RS institutions has been significantly reduced and today they only function under pressure from the international community. This has led the international community in RS to a great dilemma - whether to admit or not that the RS is under a unique protectorate. It seems that it does not wish to do this because it is not completely satisfied with the achieved results. There is considerable criticism regarding the speed of privatization, the fact that the influence of parties in RS on companies and state institutions is too great and that one can already talk about party companies and institutions, that refugee returns are not taking place as the international community would wish. That is why it is attempting, by means of an unsigned protectorate, to give a domestic flavor, that is, it is attempting to make the execution domestic and thus shift responsibility and blame to local politicians while retaining for itself the right to criticize, even those structures which it itself supports. Occasionally international institutions cross that line, such as in the case the setting up of the new government, the removal of the RS president and the mayors of some municipalities from office, refusal to allow individual parties to participate in elections, but usually they try not to be directly involved in "risky" moves.
Politicization of economics: There were several other events which were difficult for RS. Certainly this included the situation with the borderline in the vicinity of Serbian Kostajnica, the bombing of Yugoslavia and the elimination of special and parallel relations with FRY. All of these events had serious consequences on the political scene of the republic which are not considered seriously enough. I am convinced that their implications will be present in the future, as well as the state of the economy. It is, in extremely complex political circumstances, difficult in itself. In the new year, I am certain, the marked positive trend in economic developments which was noted in the previous year will come to a stop. The main reason will be the loss of the market of Yugoslavia, which was the main economic partner of RS. RS industry exported approximately 80% of its total exports to this market, and the loss of this market could not be compensated for by the markets of the Federation, Slovenia and Croatia during 1999. The reason is the smaller scope of the market (the Federation), the poor quality of the merchandise (Slovenia) and political restrictions (Croatia). It is interesting that international financial institutions do not give significance to the great trade deficit of Bosnia-Hercegovina and RS in trade with Slovenia and Croatia, and the outflow of hard currency coming in on the basis of international aid, as was formerly the case with FR Yugoslavia. All this demonstrates that political criteria are dominant in Bosnia-Hercegovina even with respect to the economy.
The next year will be a watershed in Bosnia-Hercegovina because elections are being held with a four-year mandate. If those elections do not bring real democratic changes and new faces in politics, especially in the Federation, where things are changing less rapidly than in RS, then the future of BH will continue to decisively depend upon the international community. However, if changes occur and if the Dayton Agreement is truly accepted in all of its aspects (positive and negative for both entities), then the future of peace in BH and the quality of life of the people in this part of the world can be viewed with more optimism. The following year in RS may be similar to 1999 with marked political instability, weakening of the authority of institutions and slower economic recovery than necessary and expected. Only in the case of a serious turnaround in international institutions, the situation could be different. Considering their sluggishness, I am afraid that it is not realistic to expect this.